YA Fiction for Boys: Part Four
Review of ‘Reality Boy’
(review by Trish Buckley)
All week I have been spruiking about some of the best books I have read in 2013 featuring male narrators grappling with a number of issues. Today I want to introduce you to Reality Boy – 17 year old Gerald Faust, the protagonist of A.S King’s latest book, published by Hachette. King is a phenomenon in YA publishing at the moment, having produced four amazing books in four years, including Please ignore Vera Deitz in 2010 (Printz Honour Book in 2011); Everybody sees the Ants in 2011 and Ask the Passengers last year.
Gerald is struggling with a very difficult past – a mother who put the whole family on a reality TV show when he was just five; a psychopathic eldest sister who bullied and terrorised him, and a therapist who continues to tell him that he is not in the right place to get involved romantically. How Gerald is holding it altogether is a mystery to readers. His anger hangs heavy over every scene, every encounter he has. And yet he does manage to stay calm, mostly with humour and deep breathing, and by not getting close to anyone. The girl he is attracted to remains ‘checkout operator #1 girl’, long after he starts to talk to her, thereby allowing him the distance he needs to feel safe and in control.
Not that any of that lasts for long. Hannah, (the aforementioned checkout girl) worms her way into his life, school life starts to intrude, and home becomes even more unbearable. It’s up to Gerald to make sense of his increasingly chaotic situation.
This is an intense study of a damaged boy, and by extension, the novel also explores some issues about contemporary life: that of celebrity status, that of living in a dysfunctional family, and the need to break free to figure out who you are. There’s a point where Gerald and Hannah kidnap themselves and send ransom notes to their family. Their demands are quite simple: ‘I don’t like the way you treat me. Please listen’.
Gerald is a great voice. There is much humour in how he deals with his circumstances and I love that he is open to his emotional vulnerabilities. This is dense and messy but at the same time, controlled and tense. A couple of the minor characters are portrayed very well, including Joe Jnr, the boy from the travelling circus, who reminds Gerald that sometimes it helps to look at your own life relative to others, and Gerald’s sister Tasha, his tormentor, who is totally irredeemable as a spoilt and very cruel character. It’s possible to see her as a cliché, but King’s writing assures that she remains authentic.
As with most of these types of contemporary novels, the ending is hopeful, but with not all the issues resolved. It’s important to show readers that books can reflect reality. All the boys – Josh, Boy, Alex, Gerald & Ritchie (who you’ll meet tomorrow) – can see their way through to a better way of living, but haven’t quite made it yet.
The cover and title links of this book takes you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia.If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here – Reality Boy. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here.
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